Today was the third time I planned to write about working with models, but again I had a question from one of the readers (maybe fate tries to tell me something?) and he asked me to answer as soon as I can.

The question is about location scouting. I travel a lot for my photoshoots and mostly shoot on location. So, how do I pick one in the new city and how do I know where to go once I am there.

The first thing to remember is, that I never work alone. When I come to the new city I work with the local team and the stylist or model or HMUA often has a great location in mind. If not, there is always the internet, I like to go on flickr, even though it rarely gives me something original. I also like to go to local FB groups and see what locations people discuss (even though it’s mostly more commercial, predictable spots).

If I don’t have time to go and see my location before the shoot, I do so while the team style and touch up the model, also, if we shoot along some route, I like to go till the end of it and then shoot on the way back — like this I know I won’t spend all my time on early spots and ignore better ones that are located further.

But all that is quite suboptimal and the best way to have a great shoot is to scout the location in advance. It can be done in many different ways, here are just some tips on how I do it (something different might work for you, just try and see):

  • The first thing you need to remember when you scout — you are looking for backdrops for your fashion shot, not for a stand-alone landscape masterpiece, so choose the spots where you can add the model without overloading the picture.
  • Look for backdrops (like interesting walls), but also for atmospheric spaces. Don’t think “model in front of this backdrop”, but rather “model in this environment”
  • Look for the possibility to play with geometry — bridges, stairs, balconies. Shots from above often have nice compositional complexity.
  • Don’t be limited to the model just standing — can she be lying down, sitting, leaning, balancing? Can you bring a small ladder to allow even more options? Maybe you want to elevate the model above tall grass or above a crowded floor.
  • Remember to think about the light. Try to scout the location during the same time of day that you picked for your photoshoot. If that’s not an option, ask yourself what the light will be like then you shoot — what will stay in the shadow, what direction the light will come from, how will this look with an overcast sky
  • Take pictures on your phone — it will help your memory as well as will save an exact location of the spot for you
  • If you planned a route that takes 1h, plan 2 hours for scouting — you will take detours and try angles. Always go all the way to the spot you like, if you just see it from afar you can overlook fences or other obstacles.
  • I use music when I scout, I normally have something similar in a mood to what I planned for the shoot itself. I try not to use very energetic music that would make me rush through, but I would have something upbeat for when I am tired but need to go on.
  • It’s a good practice to finish your scouting session in a coffee shop — where you can write down some notes, think about the location as a whole, make a plan about which spots to use, and share some snapshots with your team.

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